Assessing "Glee": Five Ways to Make it Maybe — Maybe — Not Suck
“Glee” always has had its haters. But Dustin got it right this week when he wrote that the people who hate “Glee” the most are the ones still watching it — the ones who used to love it, who saw its potential and who can’t give up hoping it will one day reach it. I’m one of them; I won’t even tell you how many of the “Glee” cast songs I’ve purchased on iTunes. But now, only three episodes into Season Three, I’m about to throw in the towel. Ryan Murphy’s show is a shell of what it was in May 2009, an inconsistent mush of mostly unlikable characters and bad pop songs. “Glee” can still have its moments, but they are too few and aren’t enough to carry the show. No, “Glee” either needs to change drastically, or go away completely.
Going with the former suggestion, I’d like to offer a few changes to the dramedy that might make it still worth watching.
1. Make It Gayer. No, seriously: The main gay character, Kurt (Chris Colfer), already has the best storyline and has been featured the most prominently. His struggles with coming out to his father, overcoming his feelings for fellow glee club member Finn (Cory Monteith), being harassed by closeted football player Karofsky (Max Adler), transferring to a new school, falling in love with Blaine (Darren Criss), transferring back to McKinley High, etc., have been the most moving and rewarding of the series. In fact, Karofsky kissing Kurt was probably the most shocking development on the show. By focusing on Kurt so much, the writers have actually hurt the other characters, leaving them underdeveloped and unmemorable. So, let’s officially push them to the background where they belong and make them supporting characters to Kurt and, by proxy, Blaine. And go ahead and let Santana (Naya Rivera) come fully out of the closet, too. The more, the merrier.
2. Stop Focusing on Competitions. Not only does this mess with the timeline of the show — a regional, sectional or national competition always is just “a few weeks away” for the New Directions kids — it sends the opposite message of what the show should be focusing on: that in the grand scheme of things, winning trophies doesn’t really matter. The glee club has lost more times than it has won, and it always is under threat of being disbanded because it hasn’t yet taken home a first place prize. Doesn’t that defeat the “arts are important” argument the show keeps making? Focus more on creativity and expression, like during the Lady Gaga-themed shows, and encouraging the students to just be themselves and love life. Besides, making the glee club members the pariahs of school society isn’t realistic. There were tons of students in my school’s choir and its smaller groups. This glee club may attract outsiders, but that doesn’t mean they constantly need to have slushies thrown in their face.
3. Ditch Mercedes. She’s dead weight, a one-note character who hasn’t been developed beyond “opinionated black girl who wants to be Beyonce.” And that’s a shame, and more than problematic. Is there a Tara Thornton syndrome in Hollywood? Why are black female characters, such as Rutina Wesley’s Tara on “True Blood,” being painted as shrill and antagonistic? They are made so obnoxious that most viewers lose any sympathy for them no matter how bad their struggles really are. Mercedes (Amber Riley) hit a new low in this week’s episode as she channeled the “Dreamgirls” character Effie White, complaining that Mr. Schuester (Matthew Morrison) doesn’t appreciate her talents and favors Rachel (Lea Michele). After she quit glee club because she felt singled out for being too lazy to learn dance moves (Why does the bigger girl have to be the lazy one?), she refused to share with Rachel the lead of Maria in the school’s production of “West Side Story.” Guess what, Mercedes? Rachel is a better singer than you, not to mention a better Maria, “Dreamgirls” isn’t that great and Jennifer Hudson didn’t deserve the Oscar for it. Now, Mercedes has joined the opposing show choir at McKinley led by Idina Menzel’s Shelby Corcoran. Ugh. Get rid of all of that and move on.
4. Kill Sue. I love Jane Lynch, and she’s done a great job as insane cheerleading coach Sue Sylvester. But the role is beyond played out. We need a new villain; Sue can only hate the glee club so much. At first, the ridiculousness worked through the prism of Sue the jock bully picking on the choir nerds. But the writers gave her depth and conflict, which has backfired. Does she irrationally hate the glee club, or does she accept it? She keeps trying to have the club disbanded, only to change her mind and become friends with Will, only to change her mind again. Now, Sue is running for Congress on the platform that school arts programs are the cause of everyone’s problems. OK. It’s time to nip this in the bud. Perhaps Sue could die in a freak cheerleading accident — a tragic crushing at the bottom of a collapsed human pyramid. Send her out in style.
5. Fire Will. Mr. Schu has warped from the optimistic, musical-loving director to a grumpy, whip-cracking dictator who only focuses on winning. Perhaps this is intentional on the writers’ part, and Will will come to see the error of his ways. But I can’t put that much hope in the writers anymore. A good option may be having Will leave to chase his Broadway dreams after all and putting Shelby as the head of New Directions. Sure, she’s Rachel’s mom and the adopted mother of Quinn (Diana Agron) and Puck’s (Mark Salling) baby, but that would provide better drama than Will just wishing he was having more sex with Emma (Jayma Mays). Maybe it’s Will’s poor leadership that is causing New Directions to lose after all. Let him go focus on his Spanish classes and let someone else take the reins.
Sadly, these fixes barely scratch the surface of “Glee’s” problems, but they or others like them could perhaps put the show on a better track. The best suggestion I could make, however, is for the show runners, writers and Fox executives to take the story back to being more adult-themed and stop focusing on the kid and tween viewers you may attract and, with them, their parents’ money. “Glee” has become a machine, with its merchandising and concert tours and films, and consequently, it has been toned down. Lose the Movie of the Week stories and the Very Important Lessons. Bring back the bite that was present at the beginning. To make “Glee” good again, it shouldn’t attract 12-year-olds. It should be out of their league.
But no matter what happens, “Glee,” something’s got to give.
Sarah Carlson has a front-row seat to the decline of the newspaper industry and lives in Alabama.
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